Chelyabinsk, Russia: About 1200 people, including 200 children, were injured when a meteor streaked across the sky and exploded over central Russia on Friday.
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Two extraordinary space events have occured within hours: the largest meteor to hit earth in over a century and the biggest asteroid ever to pass so close to earth.
Fireballs rained over a vast area as the explosion caused a shock wave that smashed windows and damaged buildings.
People heading to work in Chelyabinsk heard what sounded like an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt the shock wave, according to a Reuters correspondent in the industrial city 1500 kilometres east of Moscow.
The fireball, travelling at a speed of 30 kilometres per second according to Russian space agency Roscosmos, had blazed across the horizon, leaving a long white trail that could be seen as far as 200 kilometres away.
Car alarms went off, thousands of windows shattered and mobile phone networks were disrupted. The Interior Ministry said the meteorite explosion, a very rare spectacle, also unleashed a sonic boom.
"I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it were day," said Viktor Prokofiev, 36, a resident of Yekaterinburg in the Urals Mountains.
"I felt like I was blinded by headlights."
The meteor, which weighed about 10 tonnes and may have been made of iron, entered Earth's atmosphere and broke apart 30-50 kilometres above ground, according to Russia's Academy of Sciences.
The energy released when it entered the Earth's atmosphere was equivalent to a few kilotonnes, the academy said, the power of a small atomic weapon exploding. A meteoroid is a piece of rock that causes a meteor, or visible trace, as it enters the atmosphere. Pieces that survive on the ground are known as meteorites.
No deaths were reported but the Emergencies Ministry said 20,000 rescue and clean-up workers were sent to the region after President Vladimir Putin told Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov to ease the disruption and help the victims.
The Interior Ministry said about 1200 people had been injured, at least 200 of them children, and most from shards of glass.
Windows blown out
The early-morning blast and ensuing shock wave blew out windows on Chelyabinsk's central Lenin Street, buckled some shop fronts, rattled apartment buildings in the city centre and blew out windows.
"I was standing at a bus stop, seeing off my girlfriend," said Andrei, a local resident who did not give his second name. "Then there was a flash and I saw a trail of smoke across the sky and felt a shock wave that smashed windows."
A wall and roof were badly damaged at the Chelyabinsk Zinc Plant but a spokeswoman said no environmental threat resulted.
One piece of meteorite broke through the ice the Cherbakul Lake near Chelyabinsk, leaving a hole several metres wide.
The region has long been a hub for the Russian military and defence industry, and it is often the site where artillery shells are decommissioned.
Meteor weighing 7000 tonnes hits Russia
RAW VISION: A meteor causes a bright flash in the sky and explosion in Russia's Chelyabinsk region in 2013.
A local Emergencies Ministry official said meteor storms were extremely rare and Friday's incident may have been connected with an asteroid the size of an Olympic swimming pool that was due to pass Earth.
But an astronomer at Russia's Academy of Sciences, Sergei Barabanov, cast doubt on that report and the European Space Agency said its experts had confirmed there was no link.
The regional governor in Chelyabinsk said the meteorite shower had caused more than $US30 million ($A29 million) in damage, and the Emergencies Ministry said 300 buildings had been affected.
Despite warnings not to approach any unidentified objects, some enterprising locals were hoping to cash in.
"Selling meteorite that fell on Chelyabinsk!" one prospective seller, Vladimir, said on a popular Russian auction website. He attached a picture of a black piece of stone that on Friday afternoon was priced at 1488 roubles ($A48).
The Emergencies Ministry described Friday's events as a "meteorite shower in the form of fireballs" and said background radiation levels were normal. It urged residents not to panic.
The first footage was shot by car dashboard video cameras and soon went viral.
Russians also quickly made fun at the event on the internet. A photo montage showed Putin riding the meteorite and Nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovksy said in jest it was really a new weapon being tested by the US.
Experts drew comparisons with an incident in 1908, when a meteorite is thought to have devastated an area of more than 2000 square kilometres in Siberia, breaking windows as far as 200 kilometres from the point of impact.
Simon Goodwin, an astrophysics expert from Britain's University of Sheffield, said that roughly 1000 to 10,000 tonnes of material rained down from space towards the earth every day, but most burned up in the atmosphere.
"While events this big are rare, an impact that could cause damage and death could happen every century or so. Unfortunately there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop impacts."
The meteorite struck just as an asteroid known as 2012 DA14, about 46 metres in diameter, passed closer to Earth – at a distance of 27,520 kilometres – than any other known object of its size since scientists began routinely monitoring asteroids about 15 years ago.